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Why Link Building and SEO Have Lost Value

Despite frequent and multiple changes to the system, Google remains a major source of traffic for many bloggers. In order to maximize Google as a traffic referrer, bloggers actively participate in search engine optimization and link building practices. Yet those practices don’t have the power they once held. Due to a number of factors, we’re seeing a stark change in how Google displays its search results.

In order to make the best decisions, we should take a closer look at these changes and how they will affect future link building and SEO efforts. We can also use these factors to determine a better course of action in the future.

Panda and Penguin

In the last two years Google has issued two infamous updates. The Panda update, which Greg Henderson explained started to do away with low-quality and scraped content. This year Google issued a Penguin update, which Irfan at Real Time Tricks explained in detail, to curb widespread link-building practices. Both have changed the way bloggers approach their businesses.

In particular, link building has become much more difficult. While more blogs than ever are accepting guest posts — and I thank Joseph for the opportunity to guest post here — they’re also much more strict with what they will allow link-wise. There’s no more slipping illicit links into posts any more. They’re checked with a fine-toothed comb, so they’d better be either an editorial elaboration of a point or else a reference to a product or service.

By removing link farms from the equation and by putting bloggers on notice, Google has changed the way links work on the web. As such, it’s more difficult to build links for any blog or service. In order to get just one link you have to spend time writing a long and valuable article for someone else’s blog. That’s quite an investment.

Mobile Search

When I’m searching Google on my desktop computer with a 24-inch monitor, I see plenty of results on the screen. Even in a search that includes three sponsored text ads atop the screen, I still see the top five organic results. Everything is laid out for me nicely, too, and so scrolling down to the next five is no problem. But the same is not true for other common computers.

In addition to my huge desktop, I also keep a Lenovo notebook PC ready for when I have to travel (or just want to leave the house). Notice the size on these notebooks: they’re 13 or 14 inches, so they’re not exactly small. Yet when I google the same terms, I see far fewer results. Unless I set the screen resolution to barely readable, I get about two organic links below the three sponsored links. It’s clear which ones are getting my attention.

Now imagine the same search on a tablet or, better yet, a smartphone. Now consider that search is moving towards mobile devices. How many organic results do you think you see on a mobile search that contains even two sponsored text ads? That means in order to get the most people to see you in the search results, you have to be No. 1 or 2. In the past that might have been do-able, but due to other Google changes it’s tougher today than ever.

Favoring the Brand

In addition to its Penguin and Panda updates, Google has also made a more gradual shift in the past few years. Amid torrid complaints, Google has caved to big brands. They have started to rank them higher in search results for terms related to their brands. Even with heavy link building, it’s difficult if not impossible to rank higher than big-name brands for these high-volume search terms.

Combine that with the mobile search issue and it’s easy to see why link building doesn’t go as far as it used to. Bloggers wanting to build links will grow for their niche terms, but that’s about it — they’re stuck in the longtail. Even if they manage to rank fourth or fifth for a high-volume term, they’re buried underneath sponsored text ads and big-brand results. Sure, they can brag about ranking on the first page of the search results, but it might not lead to any tangible gains.

Possible Solutions

When Google makes adjustments, bloggers must make their own. Unfortunately, most of the adjustments have been pure reaction. In response to Panda they’ve started writing longer posts, but many times that amounts to additional fluff. In response to Panda they’ve started allowing fewer links, but that just takes away from the blissful interconnectivity of the web.

We can become more proactive in our approaches to blogging. Instead of kowtowing to Google’s every whim, we can make ourselves less dependent on organic search results. Instead of creating longer, fluffier content, we can create content of the appropriate length and find other sources of referrals. Here are two suggestions.

1. Social media referrals. This works on multiple levels. Focusing your promotion efforts on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can greatly boost your traffic and visibility. One of my sites — the top blogs in its narrow niche — has seen a genuine spike in traffic since we nixed link building and SEO efforts in favor of Twitter promotion. In a few months we fully expect Twitter to become our No. 1 referrer.

This is good for the future in any case. There have been hints that Google will look more at social signals and less at links in future algorithm updates. Might as well get ahead of the curve and start now. Perhaps those efforts will boost a blogger’s Google ranking in due time.

2. Buy PPC ads. Those sponsored text ads atop Google results are not going away. That’s really Google’s bread and butter for revenue. Sure, they make some money when people click on your block and see their AdSense ads. But they split that revenue with publishers. When advertisers purchase AdWords, that’s all profit for Google. They really want you to buy them.

Yes, it might cost money, but link building costs time. Both are valuable resources. Yet link building, as explained above, might not yield the results you seek. Trading that time for money, in the form of PPC ads, can help you rank much higher for the terms you desire. It might be out of your budget to rank for high-volume terms, but picking a few mid-volume terms can bring in traffic.

This all comes down to the point that the web is always changing. Google in particular has changed many times in the past few years, and each change has had a different affect on bloggers. Bloggers have to make adjustments, and those adjustments don’t have to simply be reactions to what Google does. They can adjust in ways that make them less dependent on Google. It’s more difficult than just doing what Google says, but it could pay off big time in the future.

Written By

Joe has been writing and editing niche tech sites since 2007. Now the Marketing Team Lead at digital firm PushFire, Joe talks marketing and business at JoePawl.com.

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Magic

    August 17, 2012 at 4:21 am

    I will definitely agree on using the social media market. Facebook and Twitter had been so helpful for our company. It helped us survive the impact of Penguin. Although it is not a very fast approaching process, it seems to show good results for our ranking. We should always be involved in the trend today. So, make good use of it.

    • Nitesh Ahir

      August 24, 2012 at 7:52 am

      @Magic

      i do agree with you… but when i tried a was faild to achive that from social media. I tried on facebook & twitter but i don’t get any strong signals & because of that i just lost my ranking from 7th to 11th..

      but do you think blog can helpful to me????
      i am planning to live my blog with redesing my website…
      & looking for social media approach with in blog that might be useful???

      what you think (if i am gonna wrong direction please let me know) i have good ranking in google but now looking for traffic from social media so…

      • Magic Webs

        September 3, 2012 at 6:49 am

        @Nitesh Ahir

        In our WordPress account, we added the plugin “Twitter Feed for WordPress”. As for Facebook, we made an account and we are posting/linking our blog there so that we will send more exposure to the market. Hope it will work with your site too…

  2. Lakshmi Balu

    August 17, 2012 at 4:54 am

    Hi Joe,

    SEO world is getting tougher and challenging for the online marketing professionals. For the few of us who are completely into this profession, we just need to be aware of the advertising tools like DFA (Double click for Advertisers) and DFP (Double click for Publishers). There could be many other tools and more companies are now having their marketing strategies based on advertising and mobile advertising. The PPC campaigns are gaining momentum post the panda and penguin updates. SEOs should gear up with paid ads and campaigns for more effective digital marketing.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Exactly, Lakshmi. SEOs will have to expand their roles in order to have a greater impact.

  3. Alison Wood

    August 17, 2012 at 7:09 am

    SEO on page and off page techniques have lost their value after the Penguin Update. The Best way is to give quality content to the readers and avoiding over optimization. Get quality links is another good way to keep your ranking.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      The bit about quality links is 100% true. It’s hard to get a lot of links these days, but you can change strategies by targeting high-ranking sites with quality guest posts.

    • Andrei

      August 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      I don’t think that on page SEO lost its value, although there are some sites that are on the 1st page even if there on page is bad, there are still sites that gained high ranks because their on page SEO is very good.

      I think there are lots of factors with this new algo.

  4. Michael Reilly

    August 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    SEO has been and still is a combination of to things: 1. Good content 2. And letting people know about your good content. Everything besides making good content is manipulation, but hey, that’s what all marketing is. Panda and Penguin have made it much more difficult, so now we have to take our products to the social media realm and build interest there. As of now, that’s the best ticket in my book.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      That’s my thought, Michael. Good content should flourish in a social media environment.

  5. Azam

    August 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    SEO will always remain alive only techniques have changed. According to new changes offered by the Google ranking will be awarded to only those sites that have quality contents and quality links.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm

      And soon enough social signals will play a bigger part of a site’s ranking, too, so SEOs will again have to adapt.

  6. Annie

    August 18, 2012 at 7:56 am

    It has not completely lost its value but the way it was being done has changed.

  7. Richa

    August 18, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Google surely is a great source of traffic for bloggers and with frequent changes it comes up with makes it a bit difficult to get traffic. SEO to me, can not lost its value altogether. Good content and high quality backlinks are still the key.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Oh, they are. Don’t get me wrong. But the way things were done won’t do the job any longer. Backlink emphasis is on quality, rather than quantity, thanks to Penguin.

  8. Nazrei

    August 18, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I was doing Google and got this blog, this is my first visit on this blog, information is impressive and very useful. I enjoyed it.

    • Admin

      August 25, 2012 at 12:58 am

      Thanks for the nice comment Nazrei and thanks to Joe for the interesting article.

  9. Nishadha

    August 21, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Link building has lost some of its value because other factors are having a much bigger say in the rankings. Social media signals, keyword density are some of them. However still it is important to keep acquiring those all important links.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      It’s very important. But it can’t be done overnight. It takes a big effort to get links these days.

  10. Mel

    August 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Joe,

    Your article was a great read! My thoughts are that SEO has not lost its value, it is not ‘dead’ (as I keep reading people saying!) but it HAS evolved – it had to in order to keep up with the way the web is changing and the quality of sites out there, as well as in order to satisfy users needs. Old techniques have gone out the window to make way for new techniques, but the basic principles of SEO still remain..they just aren’t as we previously knew it..!

    Mel

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      Mel, when people say SEO is “dead,” they’re probably either 1) selling something, or 2) mean that it has evolved, not died. But of course, SEOs know the value of an attention-grabbing headline.

  11. Carlos

    August 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    “Blogosphere is getting tougher and challenging for the online marketing professionals. The Best way is to give quality content to the readers and avoiding over optimization. Get quality links is another good way to keep your ranking. Good post, thanks for sharing.

  12. Nora

    August 24, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Interesting text, I have already read the most of the articles on the web about the Penguin update, and I have some really bad experiences in my statistics and rankings, the only which haven’t been told why it happens to personal sites, too. I can understand that there are a lot of sites just because of SEO reasons, and Google wants to serve their clients without spamming and misleading the search engines. But they haven’t done a precise job, it will affect negative in the future. I know that there are a couple of common link-building techniques, but some of them aren’t useful anymore, because of the Penguin update of Google’s search algorithms. It filters the over-optimized sites, but in some cases, it pushes down some personal sites as well. Social media platforms are still effective in traffic generation. Buying PPC ads needs a pretty huge investment, and I am not sure if it is worth for that.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      August 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      For a personal blog, PPC advertising probably isn’t the right way to go. But social media works very well for personal blogs, so there are plenty of new options if Google isn’t working for you.

  13. Jerrywhyte Obamwonyi

    October 8, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Well from my own opinion, SEO and link building if done well and accurately still has not lost all the much value as it may seems

    Its still the criteria for getting rank that is why Google is making a great deal of sacrifice to ensure area of webmastership is sanitized

  14. Kamran

    October 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Hi,

    Nice topic you share Joe, it really help many new seo person, to know why seo and link building is losing, why google panda, penguin hit the blogs.

    Thank
    Kamran

  15. Owen Richason

    November 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    “Google has changed the way links work on the web.” That’s right! Not only did Google roll out Panda and Penguin, it has recently removed the EMD advantage (Exact Match Domain) to give branded sites more of an even playing field. It really comes down to producing, useful, quality content to stay competitive.

  16. Janet

    November 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    The thing is people are still thinking of what to do and what not too do as it is really very difficult to determine the strategy to do SEO in this Panda and Penguin age.

  17. Jake

    November 26, 2012 at 7:16 am

    After what happen on Google Panda and Penguin? I don’t think that SEO industry are having good time on their business. Almost everyone was threaten and affected regardless if it is a big or small company.

  18. Trevor McCann

    December 13, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I think link building still has lots of value over all. You just have to adapt to the times and realize that nothing works forever in SEO. You gotta get rid of the junk links and invest a little more into better quality stuff.

  19. Joseph Bonos

    January 2, 2013 at 3:52 am

    I’m new to SEO but surely this article helps. I had thought about building a Facebook fan page to promote my new affiliate site and you explained why it’s a good idea to use social media. Very helpful article.

  20. Graham

    January 16, 2013 at 5:07 am

    This is such a great discovery and a must try for all blog owners who want to increase their success rates in terms of generating traffic to their websites.

  21. John Fisher

    January 20, 2013 at 5:20 am

    I don’t have anything against other platforms, but I’ve found that WordPress has some particularly useful Plug-Ins that help make portions of my Social Media Marketing Efforts, more or less effortless. There is a Plug-In called Tweetily, that will automatically post a certain number of posts at any time intervals that you choose to set up. I have two Twitter accounts under two different business name, and Tweet different content to each account. Additionally, even thgouh Facebook and Twitter are still strong forces in Social Media Marketing, don’t ignore Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Google+.

  22. smithlopez1

    February 4, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Links aren’t everything in SEO, but search professionals attribute a large portion of the engines’ algorithms to link-based factors. Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity of a website & page based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority.

  23. sunnyson548

    February 7, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Yes according to this panda update lot of changes came for most of the sites. Earlier the link building use to build the page rank as well as back links also. It’s better to believe with the social media sites where it support more traffic for your website. I strongly support by doing the Guest post in relevant blogs may raise your back links.

  24. smithlopez1

    February 8, 2013 at 6:30 am

    I totally agreed with your post. The link building is the major operation in SEO by this we can increase our website traffic along with good PR from Google. But this situation is not in a good way right now because Google is changing up-to-date their algorithms, which is very effectively to our businesses in internet marketing. So what i need to say here is we all are very careful to those two spammy identifier tools. I hope the above post gives a clear idea on that.

  25. Sam

    February 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Hi Joe, great article, I really enjoyed reading it. I definitely agree with you that social signals will start to play a big role in Google’s algorithm over the next few years. However I doubt that high quality links will ever lose their value.

  26. mathewson548

    February 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Great article.. thanks to all of the persons.. I would like to know about the Facebook promotion where it would helpful to my blog can any one suggest me.

  27. Yasir Khan

    June 4, 2013 at 1:55 am

    Link building is always important for search engine rankings and in increasing the traffic to your website. It also helps in improving the sales of your business.

  28. umesh

    June 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    This is a very informative article about the value lost of seo and link building.

  29. Ryan Patrick

    June 28, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Yes, one thing i would like to share my view by this post, Now the Google changing their algorithms frequently then we are losing our valuable backlinks along with good Page Rank..So i recommend better to prepare our website or business according to Google Panda and Penguin algorithms before they rolled-out..Which helps to maintain our business consistently and have a chance to enhance as early as possible.

  30. Rafiul Islam

    April 14, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Hello dear Joe Pawlikowski. Thank you in advance for sharing this article. I don’t think, SEO have lost value rather I think, Google Penguine and Panda increased Seearch Engine Optimization’s value. If you are agree with those conditions, if you can do clean white hat seo, if you can build naturally high pr relevant backlinks then SERP ranking and other rankings will be improved automatically. Surely, tons of people using search engines in order to find out something from this internet world. With respect, Rafiul Islam 🙂

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